The glorious return of Selling Sunset for its seventh series has been all anyone can talk about for the last week. Even seven series in, we're still getting multiple feuds and plenty of dramatic storylines mixed in amongst the high-end fashion and stunning properties.
And while our social media feeds are filled with commentary about the show's glamour and gossip, other topics of convo prove that what we’re saying online, and what we’re searching, are two very different things.
In fact currently - and sadly - the main search terms about Selling Sunset have focused on one thing: the age of the women on the show and it's not the first time that this has happened.
‘How old is Emma on Selling Sunset’ hit a breakout query last year, as did ‘How old is Vanessa Selling Sunset'.
So let’s test a little theory. Thinking about Emma Hernan and former O-Group realtor Vanessa Villela, what age do you think they are?
Here’s the answer: Emma Hernan was born 14 July 1991 in Boston, making her 32 years old right now. Vanessa Villela was born on 28th January 1978, making her 45 years old.
Now that you know, what was your immediate first thought? Has your perception of them changed? Do you value them more or less now that you can contextualise their looks and character with the year they were born? Ultimately, we’re asking... why does it matter how old they are?
It’s a question we’ve been forced to ask a lot recently. Last year, the cast of And Just Like That landed in the middle of an ageism row after Kristin Davis was criticised for alleged cosmetic treatments, while Sarah Jessica Parker was condemned for having grey hair and a few visible wrinkles. It was the clearest case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t as social media users failed to see the irony in picking apart one woman for ageing ‘disgracefully’ while abusing another for actually looking like peers her age (and incredible, we might add.)
Also last year, Madonna was told to ‘act her age’ after posting a raunchy photoshoot on Instagram – a woman who has leaned into her sex symbol label her entire career, suddenly told she shouldn’t merely because she’s still alive.
Everywhere you look right now, we’re obsessed with how old women are. When it comes to the cast of Selling Sunset, there are a number of potential reasons why – and all of them speak to a larger internalised misogyny, riddled with ageism.
First, let's consider a positive - that the obsession with Emma Hernan and Vanessa Villela’s ages could well be a compliment to their achievements. ‘How are these incredible, young-looking women so rich and successful?’ one might ask – particularly after Emma Hernan spends her time on the show mentioning her multiple businesses.
But if that was your thought process, we must then ask: would you think the same way if a young-looking man seemed rich and successful on TV?
Another reason may well be that these women are living such glamorous, carefree lives that one can only conclude they MUST be in their 20s (much like the 20-somethings we’re used to seeing on reality TV) but alas, does that not further push the narrative that women of a certain age belong in the box of ‘traditional’ womanhood? That once we reach 30, we must put the stilettos away, pop some kids out and start the dreaded triple-shift of household chores, childcare and work.
Then comes the most depressing potential reason of all, eerily familiar to the SATC scandal discussed above, that people are simply obsessed with knowing if any of the Selling Sunset cast have had cosmetic surgery to appear younger. This, we say with a sigh, is the most likely conclusion to draw given previous searches around the cast's 'plastic surgery'.
Are we not tired of dissecting how women choose to age?
Ultimately, no matter what the reason is that some are obsessed with the Selling Sunset cast's ages, it all comes back to ageism-fuelled misogyny. And it's exhausting. Are we not tired of dissecting how women choose to age? Are we not bored of debating whether a woman’s behaviour is appropriate based on how old they are? Aren’t we done valuing women by the number of birthday candles they blow out each year?
At it's core, ageing is something we should celebrate. Irrespective of the stigma and stereotypes our society places on it as a concept, the fact any of us have managed to survive another year is a blessing. To turn that into a tool used to pick women apart based on arbitrary life choices like whether or not you've had plastic surgery, it's a depressing reminder of how misogyny takes away from some of the most simple joys of life.
Ageing is a privilege – not a tool to qualify women’s worth.